Archive | Travel RSS feed for this section

Time Stands Still on Inle Lake, Myanmar!

20 Jul
Intha Fishermen on Inle Lake

Intha Fishermen on Inle Lake

My Stlit Cabin Deck

My Stilt Cabin Deck

Time stands still on Inle Lake in the Shan State in Myanmar. This is the type of place you want to visit at the end of a very wearying tour. Here you need not move from the verandah of your stilt cabin. Just sit, in the evening it is quiet except for the birds on the water, and soon the sun drops  behind the mountains on the other side of the lake, showering you with a variety of colors!  Dinner will be served in the Main Dining Room, but before then, there will be time for a drink on the Outside Deck.

Shan State borders China to the north, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the south, and five administrative divisions of Burma in the west. Largest of the 14 divisions by land area, the Shan State covers  almost a quarter of the total area of Burma. The Shan are descendents of the Tai-Shan people who are believed to have migrated from Yunnan in China and who have inhabited the Plateau and other parts of modern-day Burma as far back as the 10th century. Most of the Shan State is a hilly plateau, which together with the higher mountains in the north and south,  form the Shan Hills System. The Gorge of the Salween River cuts across the state. The famous Inle Lake, where the leg-rowing Intha people live in floating villages, is the second largest natural expanse of water in Burma.


Heho Airport near Inle Lake


We  landed at Heho Airport early in the morning, after a short flight from Mandalay and were going to take the back roads to the Resort so we could get an overview of the area. This would be a 6 hour, spine breaking ride in a MiniBus, over roads that could do with a little maintenance, but in the  long run, well worth the agony!


After leaving the airport, we climbed the hills and were soon in a place that reminded me very much of ranch country in Canada. We stopped to talk with women working in the fields. We asked why there were no men around and were told that they were working in places like Dubai leaving the fieldwork for the women and older men.


Countryside reminded me of Alberta Ranch Land


Women Workers



Oxen used for Field Work







Bumping and bouncing along the road, we saw a road maintenance crew working and realized why the roads were in the condition they were. Most tasks were done with a pick and shovel.

Road Workers






Pindaya Caves




We continued our drive to Pindaya, where we visited the 11th century Shwe U Min Cave Temple,  a huge complex of limestone grottos with around 9000 images of the Buddha. The caves honeycomb  the hillside above the  Botoloke Lake.  Most of the statutes have been painted gold. In March of each year, Pindaya hosts the Pindaya Cave Festival, a five-day festival of music, dance, food and fun for the entire family. Even the army attends and just look at the footwear!!! It must be Watermelon Season as I have never seen so many large, luscious watermelon!


Delicious pastries


Watermelon everywhere in huge piles



Check the Footwear










Outdoor Shower with a view


Myanmar Treasure Resort



We arrived at  Nyaung Shwe oldest of the Intha settlements around the lake, late in the afternoon and boarded our boat for the 30 minute ride to the resort. This was the little piece of heaven I was talking about. We each had an individual cabin on stilts that overlooked the lake. A unique feature was the outside shower  where you could watch the sunset as you refreshed yourself. One thing I would highly recommend is, that even if you are on a tour, try to arrange to stay in the area for several days, to fully explore the area and all it has to offer.




One Legged Rower






The Intha People are likely the first ethnic group that you will come across. They are members of a Tibeto-Burman group and are believed to have come from Dawei area farther south. They support themselves through agriculture and fishing. You will encounter their one-legged rowers on the way to your hotel. This distinctive rowing style, which involves standing at the stern and wrapping the other leg around the oar, evolved as the lake is covered by floating plant material and it is impossible to see ahead  if seated. There are about 70,000 Intha in towns and villages around the lake. There are also a mix of other Shan, Pa-O and Palaung, Danu and Barmar groups. Transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by somewhat larger boats fitted with ‘long-tail’ motors that are necessary because of the usual shallowness of the lake. We travelled  in one of these larger boats that sat 5 people quite comfortably.


Pa-O Women

During your stay in the western part of the Shan State, you will also come across the ubiquitous Pa-O people, who are the second largest ethnic group, after, of course, the Shan themselves. Their homeland tends to correspond with the most visited parts of Shan State, the Kalaw, Pindaya and Inle lake region. Highland Pa-O traditional dress is highly distinctive, with the women wearing plain black or indigo tunics with narrow blue and/or red trim and brightly coloured turbans wrapped around their heads, mostly in orange and red. The Palaung who are of Mon-Khmer stock, and the Akha and Lisu groups are of Sino-Tibetan origins. As such, they are likely to have inhabited these regions for longer than Tai groups such as the Shan themselves, with ethnologists estimating their migration to date from some 1,000 years ago.


Palaung Women wearing coils




A day on Inle Lake is like  no other that you have experienced. From the time you board your boat at 8:00AM, till the time you return around 6:00, it is an array of amazing sights.

Our first stop was the market, where upon our arrival in the area we were bombarded with sellers in boats offering us an array of merchandise. I of course succumbed and bought some jewellery.


Tourist Boats at the Market



We went into the shop to meet the Palaung women who wear brass coils around their necks. There was a 40 something woman, an older woman of indiscernible age and 2 young teenage girls. We learned that the neck stretching process starts at age 9 and the number of coils is increased at set intervals.  A symbol of wealth, position and beauty according to tradition, the coils can stretch their necks over a foot and weigh over 20 pounds According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world record for longest neck—15¾ inches. These women are obviously being used to get the tourists into the shop but they do receive  money to have their pictures taken. I felt conflicted as I stood there in the shop, wanting to take a picture while at the same time feeling that I was in a human zoo….. I didn’t like the feeling.



Bought Red/Blue scarf on the rack


The women told us she had not put the coils on her daughters. It is common for the younger generation not to follow this tradition. It is however a way for these people to earn money for their families. I bought the red scarf on the rack made by the lady in the picture,  as well as a number of other well made items from the shop. By now, my MADE IN BURMA wardrobe had grown so large, I would have to buy another suitcase or chuck some of the clothes I had brought with me, if I was to get it all home.



Canals on Inle Lake

We continued on our journey to Indein village, where there is a collection of restored and ruined stupas begun in the 12th century and added to by Shan princes up until the 18th century. The small creek took us away from the lake past sights not changed for hundreds of years…women bathing their babies, women washing clothes….life happens on the banks of the creek.


Bathing by the Creek



Washing Clothes







Older stupas



We docked in the main village and climbed a steep hill to see the restored section of stupas— this forest of shining spires on a low hill creates a spectacular effect, while the still-ruined brick stupas on the lower slopes are superb. Restoration practices would likely make any archaeologist cringe.


Refinished Stupas or “STUPA WORLD” as I called it





Back on the lake we continue our tour. Fish caught from the lake – the most abundant kind, is called Inle Carp and are a staple of the local diet.





In addition to fishing, locals grow fruit and vegetables in large gardens that float on the surface of the lake. The floating garden beds are formed by extensive manual labor. The farmers gather up lake-bottom weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bring them back in boats and make them into floating beds in their garden areas, anchored by bamboo poles. These gardens rise and fall with changes in the water level, and so resistant to flooding. The constant availability of nutrient-laden water results in these gardens being incredibly fertile. Rice cultivation is also significant.

Environmentalists are concerned about the changes that are happening in and on the lake. There was an article in The Irrawaddy Magazine in 2010 about a documentary made by Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi. This documentary shows that the livelihood of these fisherman is now in jeopardy, partly due to the impact of farming practices used in the floating gardens and partly as a result of drought and deforestation in Shan State. The 30-minute documentary, titled The Floating Tomatoes, includes interviews with Inle Lake tomato farmers who have experienced health problems after years of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  More than 100,000 people earn their livelihood by growing tomatoes in Inle Lake’s floating gardens. They use fertilizers and pesticides to produce higher yields, but most are unaware of the negative effect these chemicals have on their health and on the lake. They do know, however, that the water from the lake is no longer safe for drinking and cooking. Deforestation of the slopes surrounding the lake are also a cause of Inle Lake’s environmental decline. Both drought and deforestation—which increases the impact of drought by causing silt to build up in the lake—have also played a large role. Burmese environmentalists have found that the climate and biodiversity in the lake have changed to the point that this unique floating world may vanish forever.


Working his FLOATING GARDEN from his boat



Tomatoes are a major crop



Going Home after work




Hillsides are being deforested as hotels are opting to build for a lake view














One of the many Buddhist Statues



Retired Jumping Cat



Our last stop of the day was at “The Jumping Cat Monastery” or The Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery.  Alas, the monk who trained the cats to jump is gone, so they now just laze around and look cute.  This is likely much better for them as throngs of tourists used to visit this place just to see the cats perform. Now the few people who visit can take in the 19th century monastery on stilts with their collection of Buddha statues  from different parts of Myanmar and Tibet, set on wooden and mosaic pedestals that are hundreds of years old.


Boat Parade

Boat Parade


As we returned to our little cabins on stilts, the sun was once again saying Good-Night, but this time it was also bidding us farewell to Burma….. The Golden Land.

Burma/Myanmar is an amazing place and I am so grateful that I was able to visit before it was discovered by the rest of the world….change is inevitable…but it will not remain the same place. As Rudyard Kipling said over one hundred years ago “This is Burma….it is quite unlike any place you know about.” How right he was…..Burma remains a world apart from other countries in Southeast Asia.


Sunset on Inle Lake

Sunset on Inle Lake



I Left My Heart in Old Bagan: The Magical Kingdom in Myanmar

30 Jun

Ananda and Dhammayazika Pagodas

It has been three months, since I returned from my trip to Burma. Now called Myanmar, I still call it Burma, as that was what it was back in the day! I had chosen this particular tour as it would allow me to see the country before the developers took over and it became just like many of the other Southeast Asian countries. Burma has been closed to world for much of the last half century. On March 2, 1962, the military took control of the country through a coup d ètat and the government has been under either direct or indirect control ever since. Between 1962 and 1974, Burma was ruled by a revolutionary council headed by the General Ne Win. A  new  constitution was adopted in 1974, but until 1988 it was a one party system. It was during this period that Burma became one of the most impoverished countries in the world.

In 1988, there were widespread Pro-Democracy Demonstrations against the government for economic mismanagement and political oppression. Thousands were killed including many students,  others though, were fortunate enough to escape into neighbouring Thailand. Alice, a Nursing Professor at the University of  Alberta was one of these people and I spoke with her both prior to and after my trip. Another coup d ètat resulted in the formation of the State Law and Order Restoration Council. SLORC declared martial law and changed the country’s official name to Myanmar. May 1990 saw free elections for the first time in 30 years and the  National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, won 392 out of 489 seats. The junta refused to cede power and continued to rule. Aung San was put under house arrest. In August 2007, an increase in the price of diesel and petrol led to a series of anti-government protests, called the Saffron Revolution, which was led by Buddhist Monks, hundreds of whom defied the house arrest of  Aung San Suu Kyi to pay their respects at the gate of her house. The government finally cracked down on them on 26 September 2007. The crackdown was harsh, with reports of barricades at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and monks killed. A General Election to be held in 2015 to determine where the country will go.


Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, the site of some of the protests during the Saffron Revolution in 2007


Gate at Aung San Suu Kyi’s Home

Burma is a land of unbelievable sights and warm, gentle people. My favorite stop on the tour was in Bagan, about one hour north of Yangon (Rangoon) by air. We landed at the airport one hot morning about 8:ooAM and boarded our Big Blue Bus. It was taking us to the Bagan Archaelogical Zone, about which I knew nothing. I didn’t anticipate the MAGICAL KINGDOM I was about to experience and how it would grab my heart. We got off our bus on the dry dusty plain and walked about a half mile to a temple from which we could get an overview of the area. Climbing up some narrow stairs, we emerged onto the platform and it is impossible to describe the sight before me……..a vast expanse of Temples and Stupas as far as the eye could see. I was mesmerized!!!! I felt as if I had been deposited in another world….and I guess I had.



Archaelogical Zone on the Bagan Plain

The ruins of Medieval Bagan are scattered over 26 Square miles. This ancient capital was once inhabited by 100,000 plus people. It flourished between Anawratha’s conquest of Thaton and its destruction by Kublai Khan in 1287. We visited so many temples on the tour, I got to the point I couldn’t remember one from another. They were all unique and beautiful in their own way. I especially liked the ones constructed with red brick and which had arches of all types. Think I have 1000 pictures of arches!!! Maybe I was a monk in another life and I walked these very corridors during meditation time.


Tight Fitting Bricks


Ghosts of the past are all around

The Dhammayazika Pagoda was built in 1196 during the reign of King Narapatisthu.  The pagoda is circular in design, and is made of brick. The King ruled that the bricks were to be so close fitting that a pin couldn’t pass between them. Woe betide the worker who failed in his task. Considering this structure is nearly 1000 years old, it is amazing what good  shape it is in, given that this area is subject to such devastating monsoon rains that wash everything away each summer. It was wonderful to be able to explore these ancient structures and be the only tourists present.


Buddha in his arch


The Ananda Phaya Temple, a masterpiece of surviving Mon architecture (1091),  is built in the shape of a Greek Cross. It was severely damaged in the 1975 earthquake and restoration is still ongoing.  There is much international concern that the Myanmar Government, in an effort to get temples restored, are doing it quickly and with unskilled workers. These projects are time consuming and require a great deal of money which the country does not have. The UN has refused to giver Bagan World Heritage Status.

Ananda Phaya

Ananda Phaya

DSCF4768 - Copy

Buddha covered in gold leaf

There are 4 buddhas facing the cardinal directions





Our accommodation was at a resort along the Ayeyarwaddy River.  It had a large garden area, a beautiful pool and an outdoor dining room. Too bad we didn’t have much time to enjoy it……we were always on the go! I could imagine myself staying here for a month or so, just to be able to fully explore the area. It is also the boat dock for river boats, so one could also enjoy time on the river.



Resort in Old Bagan


Ayeyarwaddy River in the background








There was a local village along the shore just below our hotel. I walked down there to check it out and was amazed at what I saw. The houses were of bamboo and looked like they would blow away in a strong wind. Women were bathing in the river alongside boats which were unloading cargo.


Women bathing in the river



Unloading one of the boats used for transportation on the river



Village below the hotel








Saturday there was a Novice Initiation for Children into the Monastery. All children in this Buddhist country must spend a week with the monks learning about Buddhism They are very young, 5 – 8 years old. Our guide Win had indicated that, as this was a community celebration,  we were all invited to attend.  It began Friday night with a big party with loud music and dancing. Good thing my hotel room was on the opposite side of the hotel. Some fellow travellers got very little sleep. Saturday morning, the entire village was up at  6:00AM or perhaps they never went to bed. They gathered at the monastery in their finest clothes to walk  in the procession. Horses, Oxen and carts were decorated. The  novitiates all rode horses  which are led in the procession by a local man or boy. This parade through the villages can take several hours.


Village women in their beautiful silk outfits


Decorated oxen


Young Novitiate beside his horse

Monk shaving boy

Monk shaving boy

Village women shaving girl's hair

Village women shaving girl’s hair

The morning activities finished with a big lunch and the Head Shaving Ceremony began at 3:00PM. The monks shave the boys heads, while a local village woman shaved the girls. After the ritual bath and robing, the children departed with the monks and everyone else packs up and goes home. This celebration can cost $5000 and so usually several families get together and split the costs.


Saturday is a big market,  so after the parade moved on, we headed into New Bagan to check it out. What can I say… is a fabulous place where you are able to buy anything from clothing and shoes to fresh produce, fish, meat and flowers.While there we encountered another Novice Initiation Parade. This one even had an elephant.


Just like a Chinese Dragon!

Bagan Market



Women were very friendly









I did not buy much in the market as I had already met ThanThet a local woman who was selling clothing to the tourists. She had pushed the clothes through the bus window at our first stop and told me to try things on. She would meet me later to barter a price and/or exchange for Larger! sizes…westerners have so much more padding than the Burmese. Sellers are not allowed onto Hotel property, so I would go down to the gate to meet her.


ThanThet, my local dressmaker.


Not a day would go by without a visit to a temple or pagoda. Today it was the Shwezigon Pagoda, an important pilgrimage site for the Burmese. While there, a Burmese lady from a rural area indicated that she would like to have her picture taken with me.  Guess I had the look of a foreigner. Before  I knew it, her whole family jumped into the picture. My fellow travellers were standing across the way and thinking, I am sure “What is Louise up to now?”


Me and Big Mama are in the centre


My tour group wondering what is going on?


Watching the sun drop in to the river







Food in Burma is a combination of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Burmese depending where you are in the country….and wherever it is delicious. Saturday evening we were wined and dined on a sandbar in the Ayeyarwaddy River. We were taken there by boat and then treated to magical evening where we could watch the sunset across the river behind the hills. Think I could have set up a tent and stayed on the sandbar overnight. It was so quiet out there with just the sound of the river going by….a perfect place to meditate. I am actually in a number of pictures taken by my fellow travellers. I was doing just that ……


Sunset on the Ayeyarwaddy




Me in my “Covergirl Photo”













When in Bagan, one must not miss sunset over the plain. So after a Pony Cart ride to the temple and climbing steep steps to one of 5 platforms, each one higher and with narrower steps, we were treated to a spectacular, natural light show. The colors are amazing. The sky goes from pink to purple to orange….then the sun is gone and it is dark! Slowly everyone makes their way back down the steep steps. Another day is over……but the memories will last a lifetime.  I left my heart in that small corner of Burma. I hope one day to return and perhaps have more longyis made by my Personal DressMaker…ThanThet!

Pony Cart and Driver

My Private cart and driver

Climbing the steep stairs

I quit at level 2

View from the Temple Platform

The purple light of dusk over the Bagan Plain





Sunset in Old Bagan

And the sun goes down in the Magical Kingdom!

Spencer Mason Goes to London! Withybrook, War to Old Street, Islington

19 Jun


Islington map

I should have known things wouldn’t  be any different, even back in the 1700’s, given that my grandparents up and relocated to Canada from Leicestershire, England in 1913. People have always migrated,  generally either to escape their current situation or to find better opportunities elsewhere. My grandparents were no different, and in their 40’s with a 9 year old son,  they migrated to Canada looking for a better life.

I attended the Exodus: Movement of the People Conference in Hinckley, LEI in September 2013 sponsored by the Halsted Trust. I heard speakers talk about all types of “Migration”. Some folks moved down the road from village to village or village to city, while others moved from halfway around the world.

This got me to thinking….my ancestors were all Midland people from Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire or so I thought. Had any of them moved on to other areas of England, even to other countries? One day while I was  looking at Non-Conformist Church Records, I decided to do a general name search for one of my lines, the Mason’s of Warwickshire. I knew that in the late 1700 their children had been  baptized at the Independent Chapel in Stretton under Fosse, WAR. Along with all the records I expected to find,  up pops a Mason in London. Now this wasn’t  a surprise, as Mason is a very common surname. What was a surprise was the name Spencer Mason, a less common christian name.  In 1745,  John Mason had married an Ann Spencer in Withybrook, WAR. The Spencer name was then used as a christian name in subsequent generations. I knew that John and Ann had a child they christened Spencer. Could this be the same Spencer Mason,  who with his wife Martha, was having his children christened in London in the late 1700’s at St. Luke’s.

I began my search and  soon discovered that my Spencer Mason had been baptised in Withybrook at the Parish Church November 5, 1750. In the transcription on Ancestry, they had not been able to read the Christian name and wrote “Sp???? son of John and Ann Mason. When I checked the original record, I could clearly see the name was Spencer. So I confirmed a Spencer born in Withybrook who was my ancestor.  The Baptism Records 0f St. Luke’s Church on Old Street, London showed Martha as Spencer’s wife.  Further checking and I located a Marriage Record in Warwickshire for Spencer Mason of the Parish of St. Luke’s Old Street, London and Martha Compton of the Parish of Withybrook. They were married by License on March 6, 1776 at the Withybrook Parish Church. Martha had been baptised in Withybrook on 28 Jan 1755, the daughter of John and Martha Compton. It looks as if Spencer was already living in London but returned home to marry Martha. They then returned to London to live, as their first child is christened at St. Luke’s, Jun 15, 1777.  Spencer Mason also  turns up on the London Tax Records for 1780 as a tenant in the house of Joseph Foster Pryor in St. Luke, Old Street, Borough of Islington. He appears in these records until 1802, although the proprietor is now  listed as John Martin. Spencer’s burial is listed in the Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds on City Road (Non-Conformist Records Bunhill BG 1800-1803) on December 16, 1802. His Will lists his address as Old Street Square.

2013-09-16 05.01.46

Old Street showing St. Luke’s Church and Old Street Square where Spencer and his family lived until his death in 1802.

St. Luke's Parish Church

St. Luke’s Parish Church


Old Street area showing the Bunhill Fields Burying Grounds.

Old Street area showing the Bunhill Fields Burying Grounds where Spencer Mason was buried in 1802.


During his lifetime, Spencer worked as a Baker. He and Martha had a number of Children, all of whom were baptised at St. Luke’s, Old Street. Following naming patterns, his first son was John, named after his father John Mason and his first daughter Ann Spencer, named after his mother.  Listed below are the Birthdates for the children: 

John Mason                                18 May 177  

Ann Spencer Mason                26  Mar 1779                 

Martha Spencer Mason          09 Jul 1781

William Spencer Mason         16 Aug 1784

Samuel                                           01 Jun 1786

William Henry Mason             11 Jul 1788

Mary Ann Mason                      05 Sep 1790

Daniel Spencer Mason           01 Jan 1793

Eliza Mason                               15 Feb 1795

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground today

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground today

I located a will for Spencer Mason and at the same time found one for his youngest son, Daniel Spencer Mason. It was this one that intrigued me as the heading was “Daniel Spencer Mason: A Gentleman of Islington”.  Daniel would have been only 9 years old when his father died. How did he come to be called “A Gentleman”. A new investigation began.

Daniel Spencer Mason: A Gentleman of Islington

Daniel Spencer Mason: A Gentleman of Islington


To a degree, gentleman came to signify a man with an income derived from property, a legacy or some other source, and was thus independently wealthy and did not need to work. The term was particularly used of those who could not claim any other title even the rank of esquire.

Records of Admissions  indicate that Daniel Spencer Mason was admitted to St. Paul’s School London on October 23, 1804. He was age 11 and it was noted that he was the son of the Late Spencer Mason, Baker of Old Street Square.

St Paul’s was founded in 1509, at the height of the Renaissance in England. It may be that its founder Dean John Colet of St Paul’s Cathedral intended his friend Erasmus to be the first High Commissioner, though the plan never came to fruition. Colet made The Mercer’s Company trustees to the School, rather than the Church or Oxford or Cambridge, because he found less corruption among married men of business. Originally situated by St Paul’s Cathedral, the school moved four times before occupying its present, riverside site in 1968. It survived the Plague, the Great Fire and the Civil War and in 1870 was one of only two day schools included by the Clarendon Commission as one of the the “Nine Great Public Schools of England”.

Full text of “Admission registers of St. Paul’s school, from 1748 to 1876”…/admissionregiste00stpa_djvu.txt

……Daniel Spencer Mason, aged 11, son of the late Spencer M., baker, Old Street .


Aug. 11. James Phillips, aged 10, son of Richard P., lighterman,
Oct. 4, John Corrie Hudson, aged 8, son of Thomas H., of the
Stamp Office.
Entered the Legacy Department, Somerset House ; died about 1879.
William Kynaston; aged 13, son of John K., hosier, of
Newgate Street.
See July 31, 1804.
„ 5. David Henry Flack, aged 11, son of Henry F., school-
master, of Broad Street, St. James’s.
„ 6. Thomas Stroud, aged 8, son of Thomas S., haberdasher, of
Ludgate Street.
Charles George Dixon, aged 9, son of George D., of St.
„ 23. Daniel Spencer Mason, aged 11, son of the late Spencer M.,
baker, Old Street Square.
Dec. 22, Robert Rowley, aged 9, son of Robert R., surgeon, of High
Street, Borough.

I kept searching and found mention of Daniel Spencer Mason in Electoral Registers, The London Gazette, The Law Advertiser and the Records of the Sun Fire Office.

He is mentioned in the London Electoral Registers 1832 – 1965 in the years:

1832  Shoreditch, Ward St. Leonard, Shoreditch Borough of Tower Hamlets.

107/108 Shoreditch High Street today

1835, 1836, 1837  #107 Shoreditch

In the London Gazette 18 Oct 1837

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership formerly

subsisting between us the undersigned, Daniel Spencer

Mason and Jabez Balch, carrying on business at No. 107,

High-street, Shoreditch, as Linen-Drapers, Mercers, Hosiers,,

and Haberdashers, was. dissolved on the eighth day of October

1837 ,by, mutual consent—Dated this 27th day of June 1837.

Daniel Spencer Mason.

Jabez Balch.

Records of Sun Fire Office – The National Archives | Access to Archives

……Insured: John Dorset Pool and Daniel Spencer Mason 107 Shoreditch linen 

The Law Advertiser – Volume 2 – Page 149

1824 –

POOL John Dorsett, and Daniel Spencer Mason, of Shore- ditch, linen-drapers 1 May

Partnership was dissolved May 1, 1824.

Daniel died 1846. Age 53. Record indicates on 25th July his body was brought to the Bunhill Field Burial Ground from New Norfolk Street, Islington.

(Piece title 4000 BFBG 1838 – 1846)

His will is  Dated Aug 1, 1846. He leaves his estate in Brinklow, Warwickshire to his youngest sister Eliza and the rest of his estate to be divided between his sisters Ann Spencer Mason and Mary Ann Mason Finch, widow. On the 1851 Census, Mary Ann is head of the household at age 60, Ann is 72 and Eliza 56. They are all listed as Fund Holders ( A Fund holder is someone who does not have land but has funds in government bonds, then known as consols or consolidated annuities) and are living at 19 Brudenall Place in the Parish of Shoreditch.  On the 1841 census the sisters were living in Islington at New Norfolk Terrace. Daniel Spencer may have been in Warwickshire visiting as there is a Spencer Mason listed as a visitor at the farm of John Mason in Withybrook. In 1846, it is the New Norfolk Terrace house from which Daniel’s body is removed.

Here we have a glimpse of the Spencer Family who left Warwickshire to seek their fortune elsewhere. I found this all very interesting as when I made trips to London in recent years, I stayed at Rosebery Hall in Islington. I walked many of these streets, little knowing that 200 plus years ago, my ancestors had made their home in this area.


An area in Islington today which remains much the same as when the Spencefr's lived here.

An area in Islington today which remains much the same as when the Spencer’s lived here.



Rosebery Avenue outside Rosebery Hall

Rosebery Avenue outside Rosebery Hall

Weary and Worn in a Wet and Windy London Spring!

8 Jun

Does it ever stop raining?

Just a quick update and I am off exploring on my last full day in London. Can’t remember where I left off with my adventures…think it might have been Tuesday , last day of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. A few things I have discovered about London is that the same things are never working properly all the time. This includes the Underground System where they had a water main break that flooded the Stratford Station….this is the Main Access to the Olympic Stadium…..they walked the passengers through the tunnel to above ground, but the Central Line was shut all day. Wonder what would have happened if this had been Opening Ceremonies Day at the Olympics. They are actually quite concerned that this ancient system is not going to hold up with all the thousands that will be riding it over the summer. Then there is the WIFI at High Holborn Dorms… has been intermittent since last Saturday. Think everyone took the 4 day Holiday Weekend off and no one could get it fixed. Now everyone is back and it still works only occasionally. Haven’t been able to upload pictures to SkyDrive, but do not think we are having a snooze over here. We are out getting soaked in the never ending rain, with OCCASIONAL sunny breaks. Then of course, there is my competence with all things technical!! Forgot to mention that while I was at the POSH HOTEL, I tried to dry my sweater which was soaked at Battersea Park on the Sunday. It is a combination Washer and Dryer. Guess I had the wash part figured out as my sweater had a 6 hour wash cycle. I kept trying to stop it but things only got worse……I never figured out the drying part as in the morning, my sweater was still WET!!! We saw LION KING and let me say, if you thought the production in Edmonton was good, then “you ain’t seen anything!!!!” This production was absolutely fabulous, sets, costumes, the animals including a huge elephant. Another musical to add to my list that I will see next time I am here. We visited the Docklands Museum on Wednesday out at Canary Wharf. What a change in that area since I saw it in 1992, just after the Reichman Brothers crashed and Canada Tower was left standing there all alone. The museum gives a history on the River and Docks and their importance to the development of London from the beginning of time. We also met Rupert and William, 4 and 6, who were there with their father, an Oxford Professor. He has actually been to the U of A for the Orlando Project..something to do with feminist writers??? Now these 2, I would have taken home in an instant. They were so cute and talkative and their favourite play was Henry 5. Think the dad has a little influence there. Took a train across the river to Greenwich to see the Catty Sark, last of the great Tea Clippers. There we met 5 Fingers. You’ll ask?? He was a young American student on his way home from school in Madrid. He was wearing these shoes that had TOES! They will be in the pictures. Also met a Brazilian women and her husband. Spent an hour chatting with them……she of course was like one of those very classy European women who look marvellous even when the have been out touring all day. Hazel and I met up with Pearl who had been shopping in London for our final dinner. They both laugh at me when I take them somewhere. Bottom line ……I always get them to the destination but sometimes it is a very circuitous route. I say “Well it just over here a ways“, and after backtracking, cross tracking and a final check on a map, we arrive. Pearl is Queen of the Underground. I like staying on the surface and seeing where I am going, sometimes a very long walk coupled with a very long Bus ride. We ate at the PIE SHOP. 2 absolutely charming Italian students were working there and just had to practice their English for Graduated School. Pearl flew home the next morning. Hazel and I are still enduring the WEATHER!!!! Yesterday we took in another concert at St. Martin’s. Hazel had been to the Wesley Museum and I had spent 4 hours at the London Metropolitan archives trying to locate some of her Greaves/Carr ancestors. Today she is off to the British Museum and I am headed to Museum of the Order of St. John and the Museum of London. Supper tonight at THE PIE SHOP. These are English Meat/Chicken Pies with massed potatoes and gravy. YUMMMMMM! So it is “Good Bye to London” and enough memories for a lifetime. We all want to come back soon… who knows……maybe more memories. Anyone else wants to come, you are most welcome. If you come with me, you will have to learn about “just down the Road”, “over there a BIT”, “Straight Ahead”, now what the heck is the number of the Bus we want, who has their glasses? Oh it doesn’t stop here, well it’s just a “SHORT WALK”.

A Party to End All Parties!

7 Jun

A Party to end all Parties….London’s Diamond Jubilee!

What can I say…I have packed in so much over the past 2 days, I don’t know where to begin, actually, the beginning is probably the best place. Monday was a somewhat free day after we checked out of Plaza on the River and returned home to LSE High Holborn Dorms. We had no commitments till WAR HORSE at the New London Theatre at 7:30, followed by the BIG CONCERT on the Mall. Decided to walk through areas of East London, so that when I look at a Map, I know where the people I am researching actually live. Got out my handy Bus Map and caught the first bus going in that direction. Met a mother and son on the top deck of the double decker and learned how difficult and expensive it was to buy a flat in London, even the East End. They were going to look at a place for the son who works in London proper. If he bought something, he would have a commute of about 45 minutes to his office.

My bus was taking me along Liverpool Street near the Spitalfields Market area, then on to Bethnal Green and Hackney where I got off to explore. Time for a drink break so popped in to a small news agent shop where I could pick up the papers with their coverage of the Thames River Parade. There was an elderly Indian gentleman, better not say that, as we were of a similar age, sitting at the rear of the small establishment. He was friendly and asked why I was getting so many papers. Explained I was visiting from Canada for the Diamond Jubilee. We talked about where we had watched the parade and then progressed to my views on London, the Youth of today and how different they are from our generation. We talked about India and our mutual connection. He was born there. My great uncle, Richard Sleath died there,  sometime in the early 1900’s. He fought with the British Army in the Punjab and was discharged in Calcutta where he married an Anglo-Indian woman. I thought about the connections that exist between those born in Commonwealth countries and this weekend in London, it was those ties that brought us together to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Our  Queen. Time to move on, so I said goodbye.

Returned to the City, had a late English Breakfast near the British Museum. Decided as it was only 4:00PM, I should do more exploring. This time it was a bus trip through Whitechapel, Mile End, Stepney Green and ending up near the Olympic Park. As I walked through these areas, I thought about all the people who had also journeyed through here…Eastern Europeans, Jews, Chinese, Germans, Indians, Bangladeshis, Jamaicans and the English who moved into London from the villages. Because this area is near the docks, it was a place of first settlement. Much of this area was bombed in WW2, then huge Housing Estates were built to house the working poor and today much is being torn down to make way for gentrification as well as the completed Olympic Park and the super large Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford.

Went to see WAR HORSE, a story of a boy and a horse who go off to fight. It was so emotional and when you have a front row seat (theatre built like the Maclab Theatre at the Citadel,) to all the war action with gun fire and dead and dying horses and people  all around you…sometimes it was hard to breathe. The horses are truly amazing and the goose from the farm a delight. I did a presentation some time back called “Letters from Elsie”. It told the story of my Dad’s cousin, William Perkins from the small village of Claybrooke Magna who went off to WW1 and who died in the trenches in France at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917. AGE 19! This show definitely hit home and my hanky was sodden by the time the play ended. Good thing I was off to something a little lighter in The Mall. Watched the end of the Big Concert, ( Hazel and Pearl had opted to sell their War Horse tickets, and take in the entire concert)  which showcased decades of music with the likes of Sir Paul and Sir Elton and the fireworks. It had been a wonderful day of exploring the East End of London,  few tourists bother with it,  and then connecting with the World in The Mall…….100,ooo or so!

Tuesday was the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the carriage ride down The Mall. I saw only glimpses of royalty as there were thousands of people. I did get a good view of some of the 2000 who attended the service by invitation, in their fashionable outfits. By the time I got to Trafalgar Square to watch the carriage parade on the Big Screen, the police had cordoned off the area because of overcrowding. Tried a few back alley routes, but eventually got jammed in a narrow lane with several hundred others all trying to get up close. Never in my life have I seen crowds of this size. After the carriage had passed, the masses tried to move to the Mall. Just about that time the skies opened up for another deluge which was to continue all night. I have a photo of Trafalgar Square and all you see is umbrellas. At 3:30 there was the fly past over Buckingham Palace, the Royal Family appeared on the Balcony and then it was all over. The four days of Diamond Jubilee Celebrations ended as they had begun…… in the rain! It  really didn’t matter. It was simply being here,  as one of the 1.2 million people who had gathered for a common purpose….to honour a very special woman for her 60 years of service….It was as I had hoped, A Party for the Ages!… A Party to end all Parties….London’s Diamond Jubilee!

60 Loos for a Diamond Jubilee Celebration!

4 Jun

                                                                                                                                    Sunday, June 3, 2012 will go down as one of those days you will never forget!

 I woke in the night to the battering of rain against my hotel window. Got up and looked out to the street below. I could see water forming large puddles. Things weren’t looking good weatherwise, but..well, it could be SNOW!

We had decided to start this auspicious day by going to church at St. Paul’s. So as it was still raining lightly when we got up, we hauled out the ponchos and umbrellas and headed out. Pearl was dressed in layers, as she had brought light summer attire. Although people had started lining the river banks, the Tube didn’t seem that busy and when we got to St. Paul’s, there were only a few tourists outside. We attended the 10:15 Service so we could get back across the River and into our hotel. Hazel and Marlene had made their way in from their hotel out near Heathrow Airport and were waiting for us at the front of the church. The journey back was considerably different than the one out. The Tube was jammed. It was so hot and steamy, I thought I would pass out. People were wrapped in Red, White and Blue……hats, scarves and ponchos. Faces were painted with Union Jacks and nails were tri-colored. Almost everyone had a flag. .

The Hotel had given all guests wristbands and if you didn’t have one you wouldn’t be getting in. We went up to our room to set out the luncheon. We had food from the Italian Deli….fresh bread, cold meats, olives, pickles, cheese, several types of sweets, tea and coffee, Wine, Gin and Champagne for our toast to the Queen.

I had won tickets to Battersea Park where an all day event was scheduled. As the weather was still cold and rainy, my companions decided to stay in the room and watch the parade from the window. I wanted to go to the park to see what was going on. Turned out it was further than I had anticipated, so I hopped a bus and went upstairs where I would have a good view. On the way, I saw the decommissioned Battersea Power Station and the Battersea Home for Cats and Dogs. This was actually the stop I got off at, but NO, I didn’t go in to the shelter or you know what might have happened!!!!

The crowds were streaming to the Park Gates where a Security Check was in progress. Now this park is huge, probably something like Stanley Park, with areas for gardens, ponds, a small zoo, trails and I have no idea what else as I didn’t have time to explore. I do know that they were prepared for large crowds and this is the inspiration for my title……60 Loos for a Diamond Jubilee Celebration. They were all lined up on a curve like a piece of Modern ART!

Finally made it to the river side of the park where there were hundreds of people, many watching Big Screens which were all over the place. There was a real energy there. People of every age, color and background. The food Vendors had long line-ups, although many people had brought their own picnics. Beer and Wine appeared to be the drinks of choice. I watched till The Spirit of Chartwell with the Queen passed and then I headed across the vast expanse of lawn where they had set up kid’s activities, stages with music from different decades, a huge cake and food area. It was now almost 3:00 and I wanted to get back to the hotel to view some of the pageant and have some of the food. What struck me as I was out and about in the crowds was how happy everyone seemed. Not the usual pushing and shoving you often see at large events. It was a day to celebrate the Queen’s 60 years of service!

The skies opened up at I left Vauxall Bus Station and I still has a couple of blocks to walk. Back to the hotel where the party in front  was going strong. Up to the room where all were gathered in the viewing room, the BEDROOM, to watch the flotilla. After all the boats had passed, the TV provided us with coverage down at Tower Bridge where the Queen was watching as the boats arrived there. By now, it was a steady downpour, but brave and hearty souls carried on. The only thing that had to be cancelled was the Fly Past. It was almost 6:00PM when Her Majesty finally stepped off The Spirit of Chartwell. 86 years old and SHE had stood for the entire way.  As they say…..Brilliant, absolutely Brilliant!!!!  A day well celebrated and one for the ages!

Moved to Our Posh Digs!

2 Jun

              I spent the morning at Covent Garden checking out the shops and having Breakfast at Marks and Spencers. Met Pearl at the dorms in the early afternoon and we headed off for Plaza on the River on the South Bank of the Thames. Made a stop at the New London Theatre to get tickets for War Horse on Monday night. They had a few singles left and then the rest of the week was booked. Finally I will get to see play I missed last Fall when Air Canada was going to go on strike and I had to leave London early.

Our suite hotel is everything we expected. Kitchen, dining and living room plus a bedroom with king bed and a sofa that makes into a double bed. Coffee and tea supplies provided plus certificates for the Bar for 2 free drinks. We relaxed when we got here and had afternoon tea. Then we went for dinner at a nice Italian Restaurant just down the road. On the way back, we stopped at an Italian Deli and ordered stuff for our lunch tomorrow. Bread, cheese, cold meats, pickles and some sweets, plus wine. There will be six of us here.

Room service has been to turn down our beds, so having had a luxurious soak in the tub, I am off to bed. We each have TV’s to watch, so I will nod off watching Inspector Lewis. Tomorrow is a big day and we head off to church at St. Paul’s Cathedral at 9:00. Not sure what traffic will be like. Today was relatively nice and the sun even came out, but tonight the rain has started. Hope it stops by the afternoon. Regardless the flotilla will go on!

%d bloggers like this: